18 January, 2023
People power saves park sell-off
PEOPLE power has won the day over a plan by Tablelands Regional Council to sell off an Atherton suburban park for medium to high density residential development.
Council will not go ahead with its plan to re-zone the land and sell it off for development after a concerted campaign by residents fighting to retain the park, and advice from officers that the cost of the exercise would not be worth the yield the development would bring.
Residents bordering the park have been objecting to its sell-off since Cr David Clifton first proposed it in September and are understandably relieved the community facility will now be retained.
However, Cr Clifton was not backing down on the premise behind the proposal, telling council at last week’s meeting that there was a desperate need to provide medium to high density development within the area.
“As the original architect of this idea, I acknowledge that a lot of people have expressed concern about the park and I have certainly heard from a lot from people, even at social gatherings, but the fact is we have a significant housing problem,” he said.
“I believe that only seven per cent of housing stock is medium to high density housing whereas it is 24 per cent in the State.
“We need to cater to young couples, single people, professionals who can’t get housing. We have tried to recruit people and they can’t get housing.
“The problem is not going to go away – if we vote this down, we need to get off our backsides and identify a good piece of ground to suit this type of development.”
Cr Bernie Wilce agreed with the sentiments, saying the community needed to get “onboard” if council was ever going to be successful in identifying and making land available for this type of development, although he acknowledged the Pink St park was not a suitable block of land for the purpose.
Long-time resident Antonia Peluchetti, 94, her daughter Rena Ceola, and neighbour Christie Trowers were some of the main campaigners against the park sell-off and while they were celebrating their win last week, they remains cautious about any future moves to dispose of the park.
“When council decided to get quotes from outside consultants to prepare and lodge the variation (to zoning) request, we were cautiously optimistic that council would decide not to go ahead due to the cost of that service,” Ms Trowers said.
“They wanted transparency which is why it was recommended they get the quotes. Now the quotes are in, the advice to council is to not go ahead and that’s welcome news to us.
“For now, we will celebrate our win and press ahead with getting some playground equipment re-installed and also push for new picnic tables through whatever means we can.
“However we will continue to keep an eye on council meeting agendas to ensure they don’t revisit the re-zoning in the future.”
Ms Trowers said she was pleased that “people power” had won the day.
“When we started this fight, so many people said ‘don’t waste your time, council will just do it anyway’,” she said.
“Well, this just goes to show that if people do stand their ground, be strong together, and take a little time to delve a little deeper into the information council makes public, and question it, that they can make a difference and perhaps make councillors reconsider.”
Mrs Ceola described the victory as “a big win for the little guys”.
“We need to conserve our green spaces so that future generations can enjoy them as my children did.
“My almost 95-year-old mum is over the moon. We did this not just for her but for her great grandchildren who will con-tinue to have a place to play.
“We look forward to the opportunity of making this park a welcoming place for the community.”